During the Vietnam War, Colonel Norman Schwarzkopf was sent to take over command of a battalion positioned near the front lines. The troops were demoralized and unprepared for battle; casualties had been high. The outgoing commander had nothing good to say about his troops or their combat performance. Schwarzkopf began training and encouraging his men.
Morale soon rose and casualties declined. A message was later intercepted from the enemy indicating that they assumed a much tougher and more highly skilled unit had replaced the previous, inept one.
Christians today live in a spiritual war zone. Marriages and families are under relentless attack. Younger and younger teens succumb to drugs, alcohol and immorality. Churches are ravaged by moral failures and acrimonious division.
God’s standards and values are challenged, mocked and ignored. Why are the powers of evil defeating God’s people on so many battlefronts? We must ask ourselves if we are in fighting condition for spiritual warfare. God has always had a high standard for those who serve in His army.
Read the following verses and note beside each one a quality God expects:
- Joshua 7:13
- Judges 7:3
- Judges 7:5-7
- 2 Timothy 2:4
Clearly, holiness is crucial. God works through sanctified servants. He can do wonders through one holy warrior surrendered to His will (Joshua 3:5). We are exhorted to have courage (2 Timothy 1:7). After all, if God is for us, what difference does it make who is against us? (Romans 8:31).
God also wants us to be alert and prepared for battle at a moment’s notice. The soldiers who lapped water from their hand while attentively watching for the enemy were the ones God told Gideon to select. Likewise, our Lord is looking for men and women who take seriously their duties as spiritual guardians.
God does not want us to become so entangled in worldly concerns that we are too distracted to serve Him. Many a person has wanted to be a follower of Christ, but their worldly interests and commitments sidetracked them, preventing them from joining Jesus on His mission (Luke 9:57-62, 18:18-23).
A recent newspaper article reported that a large percentage of American troops are currently unfit for battle. They are in poor health physically or emotionally and therefore cannot be deployed when their units are assigned to combat zones. As a result, many brigades are dangerously undermanned and cannot effectively carry out their assignments.
Military success depends upon combat-ready troops who can be assigned to the most arduous appointments. Read about two incidents where people thought they could undertake a difficult task but were woefully unprepared. Briefly describe them below.
- Acts 13:5, 13; 15:36-38
- Acts 19:13-17
What happened? Each sought to imitate what the Apostle Paul was doing, but they had not prepared themselves as he had. John Mark certainly had good intentions about serving Christ and sharing the Gospel in other lands. But he was not ready for the sacrifices he would have to make or the opposition he would face.
When the pressures mounted, John Mark went AWOL. Likewise, the seven sons of Sceva had watched Paul defeating Satan’s forces and perhaps envied the fame he had achieved. When they tried to set a man free from his demonic bondage, attempting to assault the powers of darkness as Paul had done, they suffered a humiliating defeat. Why was Paul victorious while the others were soundly beaten?
Read 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. What was the key to Paul’s effectiveness as a soldier for Christ?
There is a reason the Scriptures hold so many warfare metaphors and tell of so many battles. As the Apostle Paul well understood, the most serious challenges believers face will not be from people but from spiritual assaults. He gave Christians specific advice on how to prepare for the inevitable attacks that would bombard them.
Read Ephesians 6:12-18 and describe in your own words what it would look like for you to do each of the things Paul mentions:
- Take up the whole armor of God
- To stand
- Gird your waist with truth
- Put on the breastplate of righteousness
- Shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace
- Take the shield of faith
- Take the helmet of salvation
- Pray always
- Be watchful
Is your spiritual armor in place? Are you on high alert and battle ready? Can your Christian comrades count on you? Or have you been too cavalier about your obligations as a soldier for Christ? What adjustments do you need to make so you are an effective soldier who honors God by the way you serve Him?
Richard Blackaby is president of Blackaby Ministries International. He has served as a pastor and also as president of the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary in Cochrane, Alberta. Richard has co-authored several books with his father, Henry, including “Experiencing God: Revised Edition,” and “Fresh Encounter: Revised Edition.” Richard speaks internationally on the Christian life, spiritual leadership and revival.